Byron Shire Council voted Thursday to set a standard annual fee for the tender process for surf schools and kayaking operating on coastal reserves.
It will replace the previous criterion of a ‘highest bid’ on fee.
The decision comes after an independent review suggested that while the methodology adopted by the evaluation panel for the scoring criteria was consistent with Council’s policies and tender guidelines, ‘it was not the most appropriate method’ and did not have a ‘sound basis’.
The decision is good news for Byron Bay Surf School operator Jaymee Edwards, who together with elite surf coach Steve Foreman lost his licence to operated in Byron on July 31. Mr Edwards lost to competitors who offered more in the ‘fee’ criterion, despite his having an unblemished record and sound local knowledge.
The Grant Thornton review also recommended that the Surf School be offered a temporary licence, which Council will seek to provide, conditional on the support and approval of the Cape Byron Marine Parks, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Department of Primary Industry Crown Lands.
The report also noted in its key findings that ‘Council has adequate processes in place… in accordance with relevant legislative and statutory requirements… to ensure tenders are treated fairly, impartially and with due diligence.’ The report also included a confidential report to the Reserve Trust and advice from Marsdens Law Group.
‘All eyes across the nation have been on this case, and the precedent it may set for other surf schools who need council sub-licences to stay afloat,’ Mr Edwards told Echonetdaily.
After his school was denied the right to operate, Mr Edwards took a consultancy role with Academy of Surfing Instructors (ASI).
‘A key function of this role is to work with councils across the country to introduce flat rates for sub-licences, so eliminating the dangerous and fraught ‘auctioning’ style system which the Byron Shire Council appears to have recently attempted.’
During debate in the chambers, indemnity from litigation, due process and setting a standard fee were discussed between councillors and staff.
Cr Basil Cameron was the only voter against the motion. ‘There is an expectation that we will look after the interests of all. I reject there was a problem with the process. The process is okay – we endorsed it. It’s not about local preference, its about the best benefit for the community for those wanting to use it for commercial gain.’
Mr Edwards gave thanks to ‘the incredible support and understanding from fellow surf-school operators in the Byron Shire during this ordeal’.
‘They saw how blatantly unfair and devastating this process was and how they could have been next. I look forward to a fair and decent flat rate being introduced by Byron Shire Council to ensure none of us has to go through this again. Special mention has to be made of the legendary elite coach, Steve Foreman, who also lost out. I have the feeling though, nothing can stop him from doing what he does best.’